Kate's Cancer Research Adventure
Organized by: Kate Ellis
"The great aim of education is not knowledge, but action" - Herbert Spencer
I want to share my story and the adventure I have had being an undergraduate cancer researcher. My experience has impacted me as a student, a scientist, and most importantly a student.
Thank you for your support and for helping myself and future undergraduate students gain a passion for the fight against cancer.
My freshman year I nervously approached Dr. Roslyn Crowder about having the opportunity to shadow her in her cancer research lab. She told me to finish my first semester and to come back to her at the end.
As soon as Thanksgiving break I went into her office and spent thirty minutes rambling on about how I knew that I had no experience whatsoever and that I was only a freshman, I desperately wanted to not just work with her, but to learn from her. That I would work harder than anyone and I wanted to do this not as a class, but simply to grow. After giving me one good hard look she agreed.
The next semester I spent hours on hours a week in the lab just following Dr. Crowder around with a little flower notebook writing everything down that she said like my life depended on it.
The next year I was granted my own project. I was so excited and made all of these plans about how I would discover all of this information. After doing some research it was easy for me to decide I wanted to work with lung cancer considering how many people it effects. The American Cancer Society states that 221,200 people were diagnosed with lung cancer in 2015.
After guidance from Dr. Crowder I selected green tea extract as a possible source of medication. This is a unique approach that looks at natural remedies that would not be as harmful to the body as current chemotherapy treatments. I got to work and I worked hard. I did 32 trials of a Coomasie blue stain (shows that the chemical is killing the cells).
Eventually I started to feel defeated, but I kept going because science is not science without a whole lot of failures and one success.
Mid-October of my sophomore year I went home from break and received devastating news. Tara Mitchell, my mom's best friend, and a person I was very close to was unexpectedly diagnosed with acute leukemia. Within four weeks she went to a better place. I took this very hard and it added to my frustration. While I personally did not work with acute leukemia, some of my colleagues did. It was mind blowing for me to stare at a petri dish full of these cells and know that those tiny things had the capability to kill someone.
It made me angry for a very long time. It was not until the following summer that I met a lady in Hilton Head at a local boutique. She was incredibly friendly and asked me what I was studying and what I did. I told her I was a Biology major and I did undergraduate research with cancer.
She instantly looked me directly in my eyes and said:
"Thank you, it is because of students like you that I get to live. I had breast cancer for three years and I have been in remission for five years. You are the future of the medical field, do not give up."
That moment was the best moment of my entire life. It was better than winning any kind of award, better then getting an A in a hard class. It was knowing that somehow I had the capability to not just impact someone's life, but impact their chance of survival.
From that day on I have made a commitment to pursue my passion in cancer research and to continue to make more people feel like there is hope.
I can only thank the people who have lead me down this path and have given me this incredible opportunity to learn in a real scientific setting. Dr. Crowder continues to be a inspiration to me beyond words. Tarra is always in my mind every time I put on my gloves. The lady from Hilton Head continues to give me hope. Unfortunately as an undergraduate student at a small university, I receive no funding for my research.
All of my research is dependent on donations. I have been fortunate to be able to have the support to do my research for two years now. I ask you to consider not making a donation for me, but for everyone out there who has been impacted by cancer.
I ask you to make a donation so that other students may be impacted by the experience I have had. Your donation does not go to administration payment or advertisement. It goes to the students and the lab. It goes towards growing future scientific fighters of cancer so that some day no one has to experience the horrifying effects of cancer.
Thank you so much for your consideration and thank you for helping students like myself grow.